US urges Kenya to tighten rules on wildlife trafficking

Saturday June 08 2024

Police display elephant tusks that were seized at Mahiga area in Laikipia West, Kenys on May 24, 2023. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


The US wants Kenya to tighten rules on environmental protection and conserving natural resources as negotiations for a new trade deal between the two nations intensify.

In the latest third set of proposed texts in the targeted trade deal, the US is seeking greater commitment from Kenya to strengthen laws and rules on environmental protection with a key focus on conserving natural resources.

“The proposed text includes provisions to address air quality, marine litter, and plastic pollution, to combat wildlife trafficking, to promote sustainable forest management, to conserve marine species, and to prevent the loss of biodiversity,” the office of the US Trade Representative wrote in the summary of its proposals on environment chapter.

“The proposed text also includes provisions on fisheries-related matters, such as addressing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity.”

Read: Sub-Saharan Africa a hotbed of illicit trade

The teams negotiating a new trade deal between Kenya and the US will listen to views from stakeholders in the wake of Washington tabling fresh texts on mitigating pollution, fighting wildlife trafficking and addressing unregulated fishing.


The virtual public participation session will provide an opportunity for groups and individuals to give their input into the contentious clauses in the proposed US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership.

This has come at a time when a section of lobby groups have protested over little transparency and public participation on the Kenyan side.

Lobbies in the agriculture sector such as Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum and Poultry Breeders Association of Kenya (PBAK) have publicly complained to Kenya’s Trade Ministry for failing to disclose draft texts they have tabled before their American counterparts.

The Trade Department has cited a “confidentiality agreement” with the American negotiators for not sharing the draft text, according to the groups.

“It is inconceivable that draft texts with far-reaching sectoral and economy-wide ramifications can be deemed confidential and hence deny industry players the opportunity to promote and protect their interests during the text-based negotiations,” PBAK wrote in a memorandum to Trade Principal Secretary Alfred K'Ombudo.

Washington has, on the other hand, been releasing a summary of texts they are negotiating with Kenya through USTR’s office. The office collected public views from American stakeholders on the proposed deal with Kenya between August and September 2022.

The negotiating teams are meeting this week meeting in Mombasa for the sixth negotiating round following last month’s talks in Washington.

The sixth round of talks focuses on promoting workers' rights, advancing and supporting environment and climate change objectives as well as enhancing efficiency in customs procedures and cooperation on enforcement.

They are also negotiating proposed texts on the contentious application of science- and risk-based sanitary and phytosanitary measures and sustainable agricultural practices.

Read: Kenyan poacher extradited to US pleads guilty

Nairobi and Washington are keen to reach an agreement on the proposed bilateral trade pact, the first between the US and an African country, before the end of the year.

Kenya has long sought a sustainable full free trade agreement with the US outside of the two-decade-old African Growth and Opportunity Act deal, but progress has been dragged by regime change in both countries.

Constance Hamilton, the Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa and the lead negotiator for America in the talks maintained that the Stip will not graduate Kenya out of Agoa.

“The Stip is actually a way of … undertaking additional commitments that we believe will improve Kenya’s investment climate and environment, and that at the end of the day, Kenya will be in a better place to attract the kind of investment for the kind of job growth that they’re looking for,” Ms Hamilton said last October.

“When we launched this [Stip] under the previous administration and under the current administration, the guidance we got is that it has to work.”